Can Dogs Get Seasonal Affective Disorder?
There is a form of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is triggered by the changing seasons; it starts and ends roughly at the exact times each year. If you have SAD, as most people do, your symptoms begin in the fall and last through the winter, draining your energy and making you moody. Typically, these symptoms go away in the spring and summer. SAD less frequently results in depression in the spring or early summer and clears up in the fall or winter. But does this type of depression also affect dogs?
The energy level, lethargy, and sleepiness of dogs are frequently reported to decrease during the winter by pet owners. This is closely related to the shorter winter daytime hours, which means that your dog produces more melatonin than in the summer, which results in tiredness, sadness, changes in eating habits, and behavioral changes.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Depression brought on by seasonal changes is a seasonal affective disorder. Although it can happen in the spring or summer, it typically rears its gloomy head in the winter when our exposure to sunlight decreases because of the cold temperatures and fewer daylight hours. Human symptoms of depression include low energy levels, depressed and hopeless feelings, and adjustments to appetite and sleeping patterns, among other symptoms.
Although we can’t tell if our dogs are genuinely depressed, many have shown other signs of the illness, such as an increased appetite and weight gain, more extended periods of sleep, mood swings like irritability, or a loss of interest in toys or activities, and a general lack of energy. Although being cooped up inside with little to do can be boring, the winter blues may have a chemical basis.
Evidence suggests two particular hormones may play a role in SAD, even though scientists still don’t fully understand what causes it. Since serotonin is a hormone that mammals use to control their mood, appetite, and sleep cycles, shorter winter days result in less serotonin being secreted into the body because it requires more sunlight to be made. Less sunlight is also bad for serotonin because it inhibits the production of vitamin D, which is necessary for serotonin activity and is only produced when sunlight hits our skin.
Melatonin signals to our bodies when it is time to sleep or be awake and helps control the sleep cycle. More melatonin would be secreted in lower light levels than usual because this hormone is produced in the dark. When the delicate balance between serotonin and melatonin is upset, we can notice SAD symptoms in ourselves and our pets.
You can do many things to assist if you cannot lift your dog off the floor to play with them or feel merely unhappy during the winter.
Behavioral Changes During the Winter
According to one survey done in the UK, one-third of pet owners observed changes in their animals’ behavior over the winter. The following was one of them:
- More frequent barking
- Increases in aggression and destructive behavior
- Less playful attitudes
- increased slumber time
- reduced appetite or weight loss
- more fur is lost or shed than usual
Although it makes sense that dogs might be similarly impacted by the seasons, it’s important to remember that the UK survey was carried out. This was not a scientific investigation; it only measured dog owners’ perceptions.
What are the Effects of Reduced Sunlight on Animals
According to Dog Experts, reduced sunlight, also known as Seasonal Flank Alopecia, has been linked to Light Responsive Alopecia in dogs. Some breeds are more vulnerable than others, including Airedale Terriers, Schnauzers, Doberman Pinschers, Bulldogs, Scottish Terriers, and Boxers.
According to scientists, the absence of sunlight exposure to the pineal gland is the cause of the condition. The effects are greater on dogs living in northern climates than in sunnier, southern climates. Additionally, dogs’ fur grows back when exposed to enough sunlight.
Other Possible Causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder? And What are the Evident Symptoms in Dogs
Dogs may act glum during the chilly, dark months for other reasons. For starters, we are all aware that dogs frequently emulate the actions and attitudes of their owners. Due to their emotional intelligence, dogs can predict or identify specific human behaviors and react appropriately.
For instance, a dog living with a human suffering from SAD will observe a change in the owners’ behavior toward a more passive and low-energy way of life. The dog may pick up on the atmosphere of solitude or melancholy in the house and start acting similarly to adjust to his surroundings. Additionally, due to their attachment to their owners, dogs are likely to stick close by and participate in whatever their owners do, whether running around or hiding.
However, it might be more challenging to go outside during the winter for play and exercise. The consequent accumulation of inside time could merely result in boredom. Dogs enjoy being active, playing and smelling everything outside. When they aren’t exposed to this stimulation, they are more likely to experience boredom, which can resemble depression.
Simple Tips for Keeping Your Pet Healthy and Happy During Winter
Let There Be Light
Increasing your friend’s exposure to natural light is one of the most important things you can do to lift her spirits. In actuality, this is something to remember all year long. Place your pet’s bed close to a window. On sunny days, open the curtains and raise the shades.
Choose a lightbox or a full-spectrum sunlight therapy lamp on days when there isn’t much sunlight available. These lamps are used by those who experience depression and SAD to lessen the effects of the condition.
Ensure your pet is awake when using the lamp because the light needs to reach their pupils to function. The theory is that exposure to light alters brain chemistry, reducing depressive symptoms and enhancing mood. A person typically uses a sunlight lamp for 45 to more minutes per day. To decide on the ideal time for your dog or cat, you should discuss this with your veterinarian.
Being active helps your pets stay happy and healthy, just like exercise enables you to feel better. Furthermore, it’s excellent for keeping their weight and muscle tone stable. Get the day off to a double bonus by taking your dog for a stroll in the sunshine. You’ll feel better with your pet getting some much-needed exercise and decreasing their likelihood of becoming bored.
Although likely, your dog won’t be too bothered by the cold if it’s cold outside. You can always buy him a stylish dog coat if he is. Bring some of your cat’s favorite toys out to the porch so she can play with them or spend some enjoyable time together by a window with plenty of sunlight. Use interactive toys to keep your dog active and stimulated indoors as well. Try hiding a few treats or toys around the house for her to find, or try some enjoyable treat puzzles.
If you think about it this way, you probably feel down when you are alone, have nothing to do, and the weather is drab. Give your pet opportunities to interact with others, play, and move around so that he doesn’t experience the same feelings. Even better, take your friend on an enjoyable winter getaway. All these activities can help your pet feel happier and in the better physical condition and prevent boredom.
Eat a Healthy Diet
No matter what time of year it is, one of the best things you can do for your pet is to ensure her food bowl is always filled with a nutritious diet. Look for pet foods with healthy ingredients and few artificial flavors, preservatives, or fillers. Don’t give your pet table food, and only give them treats.
Never administer any mood-enhancing medication or supplement to your pet unless you have thoroughly discussed it with your veterinarian. While taking specific vitamins, such as Vitamin D, may be beneficial for humans during the winter, they can have serious adverse effects on your pets. Probiotics and Omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, may prove to be very beneficial for your dog and cat, but always consult your veterinarian before taking any supplements.
Let Them Exercise
You are most likely aware that your pet can sense your emotions, including depression. Your pet may be able to detect your anxiety, distress, or excitement. However, it’s also very likely that your sad pet is noticing your moodiness.
Your constant companion is most likely picking up on and mirroring your negative emotions if you are experiencing SAD symptoms and are depressed, bored, tired, or just feeling down. In this situation, it’s more likely that your shifting moods impact your pet than the changing seasons. Additionally, if you’re less active in the winter, you might not be walking your dog or playing with your cat as frequently as you would otherwise. Your pet naturally doesn’t get as much exercise as he’s used to and suffers as a result.
Therefore, take your dog for a walk despite how difficult it may be. A visit to the doctor is worthwhile if you’re struggling. Nevertheless, despite the shifting weather, make an effort to maintain your pet’s routine.
Try some of these suggestions if you’re concerned that the seasonal changes have caused your pet’s behavior to change. But in any case, consult your veterinarian to rule out any additional problems and to get further advice for your friend. Your veterinarian can also help you with any other pet-related issues that may be present.